This past Tuesday my wife and I braved the bitter cold and attended opening night of On Your Feet! at the Durham Performing Arts Center. We had been looking forward to this show for months and it did not disappoint! The show was easily one of the best we have ever seen with a fantastic performance by a great cast showing off amazing vocals and dance moves. It was a wonderful way to kick of the 2018 season at DPAC.
On Your Feet! made it’s Broadway debut on November 2015 where it enjoyed a run of 746 performances before closing in August 2017 and is now on it’s first U.S. national tour. The musical tells the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and chronicles their personal and professional lives starting with how they first met in Cuba to their transition to the Miami music scene where the launched the now iconic band “Miami Sound Machine”. It is an inspiring story of their perseverance and hard work to make the successful music crossover into American culture while facing adversity and battling stereotypes along the way.
This was a very tight production. Each element of the show, from the singing, to the dancing, to the vibrant colors of the costumes and beautiful sets and lighting complimented each other perfectly resulting in one of the best theater experience I have ever had. There was only one tiny little hiccup with the set early in Act I that required a brief intermission, but hey that comes with the territory of live entertainment and working out opening night kinks!
That small blip aside, On Your Feet! really shines with it’s talented cast and the score (much of it from the songbook of Gloria and Emilio). So talented in fact that I didn’t even realize Arianna Rosario, who played Gloria Estefan on the night we saw the show, is the understudy to Christi Prades. Rosario was fantastic as Gloria and let me tell you she is her own star. Her vocals were great throughout then night and her dancing and acting make her a true triple threat. Mauricio Martinez was equally impressive as Emilio Estefan. The two sounded great together during their duets, and have a great chemistry on stage as the relationship of their characters evolve from young lovers, to music business partners, to husband and wife.
While the show weaves through the growth in personal relationships between Gloria and here Mother and Emilio, the big breakthrough of the plot comes from the professional side of the story – when Gloria identifies the Latin pop crossover sound she wants — the classical salsa rhythms with “a funk baseline and a strong back beat on the drums and all the lyrics in English.” And with each song the chorus and dance moves kept the energy of and the rhythm of the going all night long. And while the show is filled with wonderful renditions of Estefan’s greatest hits, each number serves a purpose for moving the story along and is not just dropped in the show for the sake of adding another familiar song.
I loved On Your Feet! It had everything I look for in a musical. An inspiring story that is also entertaining and delivers a great message. It was a fun night basking in the Cuban-fusion sound with a mix of just the right amount of nostalgia from the Miami Sound Machine Days. I consider a musical a big hit with me when at the end I immediately think about how much fun it would be to see it again. I would see On Your Feet again in a heartbeat. Don’t miss your chance!
“On Your Feet!” has performances at DPAC through Sunday, January 7th. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/on-your-feet.